Hospital tax addressed at President’s Forum

TAYLOR MURCHISON-GALLAGHER

STAFF WRITER

Bristol Hospital President and CEO, Kurt Barwis, discussed a funding issue affecting all Connecticut hospitals, during the Bristol Hospital President’s Forum, on Tuesday, Feb. 12.

Barwis explained that during the previous state budget process, “legislators really worked hard” to address issues such as how the state would reimburse hospitals for the Medicaid program, which hasn’t seen an update in five years.

As part of that process, he explained, the state wrote into law how hospitals would be paid. The plan was supposed to cover four years worth of reimbursement. They would utilize a software system known as Grouper. Grouper, Barwis said, is a more fair way of paying hospitals because it takes more factors into consideration when evaluating the cost of care for each patient. These factors may include family history of health conditions, and the care a patient receives after an operation, amongst others.

“Everything was going fine up until about Oct. 1, when the state took an update to the payment system and that update required them to recalibrate the payment systems,” said Barwis during the forum. “Unfortunately, they didn’t update the Grouper when they took delivery of it, and so as a consequence, the state started to under pay hospitals for the MediCare reimbursement, to the tune of about 26 to 29 percent, depending on which hospital it was.”

In Bristol Hospital’s case, they have been underpaid by approximately 28 percent, or, about $2 million a quarter. At the end of the fiscal year, Barwis said, the hospital will have been underpaid by $8 million.

Barwis said the loss in funding is “really unfortunate,” as it will result in an approximately $60 million loss a quarter in total for all hospitals in the state of Connecticut.

“We’re certainly banking that it’s recoverable, it should be recoverable,” said Barwis, who explained that part of the budget deal was “the state would pay the hospitals, and in exchange, would get an increased and enhanced match from the federal government.”

“So when the state does not pay or reimburse the hospitals, they’re not entitled to the federal match on those funds,” said Barwis. “And, it’s causing serious, serious cash flow problems for hospitals across the state.”

Thomaston Savings Bank issued an emergency line of credit for the hospital, said Barwis.

In an attempt to mitigate the effects of the loss, Barwis said the organization will taking a “slow and intentional approach” with some of the projects they had in the works, such as updating patient rooms.

One project that will not be affected is the downtown project, which Barwis said has two tentative completion dates, “one is by the contract on April 15, and one is by the developer which is May 15.”

Barwis also said that through the Connecticut Hospital Association, hospitals across the state will be meeting to discuss avenues of advocacy, as well as ways to spread awareness of the situation.

And, while Bristol Hospital has been looking at ways to save money, Barwis stressed that the hospital’s main concern was maintaining quality services for their patients.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Taylor Murchison-Gallagher, email her at TMurchison@BristolObserver.com.